JACKSONVILLE – Too soon to start thinking about Philly?
The Falcons coaches certainly won't be this week, not with one more preseason game left against the Dolphins and important decisions still to make with the final roster cut-downs looming.
And those players who are still scrapping and fighting for one the few available roster spots on this team are not, either.
But for Falcons fans, who have been chomping at the bit knowing that this thing finally kicks off for real in just 12 days against the defending Super Bowl champs, Sept. 6 cannot get here soon enough.
And I really can't blame them, especially after Saturday night in Jacksonville.
Now that the so-called dress rehearsal game is in the books – a forgettable 17-6 win by the Jaguars here at TIAA Bank Field – fans know that the next time they'll see Matt Ryan or any of Atlanta's starters play a meaningful snap again will be in the City of Brotherly Love.
It isn't lost on those who bleed black-and-red that their guys are returning to the scene of last January's crime, either. Or the fact that this will start off as one big party for the Eagles, who will no doubt be taking advantage of the spotlight to unveil their brand-new Super Bowl LII Champions banners that night.
And they should; they earned it. To the victor goes the spoils.
The expectations for these 2018 Falcons are sky high, and fans know it. Atlanta is talented, experienced and deep in some key positions. The majority of starters on both sides of the ball are back from last year's 10-6 team and, oh yeah, they're leaving Jacksonville tonight in relatively good health – which is huge.
The offense is once again potent with Ryan, the league's MVP in 2016, playing behind an improved offensive line and an arsenal of weapons at his disposal that includes Julio Jones, Mohamed Sanu, Calvin Ridley, Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman. The core of young, talented and fast defense is also back, led by a pair of Pro Bowlers in Deion Jones and Keanu Neal.
The Falcons have a complete team that should win a lot of games. And it's not just me writing that, either. Here's just a few samples:
Sports Illustrated's Andy Benoit recently made his team-by-team and playoff predictions, and has the Falcons winning Super Bowl LIII over the Steelers.
Back in July, Colin Cowherd said the Falcons will start the year 5-2 and win the NFC South during his show, "The Herd with Colin Cowherd."
Pete Prisco of CBSSports.com annually predicts every game for every season and this year he thinks the Falcons will end up the NFC's No. 2 seed and advance to the conference championship game.
To top it all off, Falcons fans are also well aware of the fact that The Game is being played in Their House on Feb. 3, 2019, and they want Their Guys playing in it. Not the Saints. Not the Packers. Not the Panthers.
None of them.
So, yes, it was good to see Damontae Kazee make his presence known for a third-straight game with another dominating performance against the Jaguars. And it appears Brandon Fusco has solidified the right guard position, too.
And, of course, there's one more preseason game to go – next Thursday at home against the Dolphins – and there's the final roster cuts on Sept. 1 to solidify the 53-man roster. All key dates for sure.
But I get the sense that Falcons fans are ready to play the long game when it comes to 2018. This franchise was founded on June 30, 1965 – that's 53 years, one month and 25 days ago – and they've never felt this good, this excited, this anxious heading into a season.
So, forget Saturday night against the Jaguars. Rest those starters and find some quality backups, Coach Quinn, because I think these Falcons fans are ready to kick this thing off.
They want Philly.